2011 NFL Draft Results: Where Each 1st Round Draft Pick Fits with His New Team
The 2011 NFL draft's first round is in the books.
It was a memorable first round, with some prospects getting reached for (ahem, Aldon Smith), others free-falling (Anthony Castonzo, anyone?) and others not getting picked at all (see you on Friday, Ryan Mallett).
Now that the players have been matched to teams, how exactly do they fit? Who will step-in and start right away and who will need a few years to develop?
Let's take a look at who fits where and why.
1. Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton, QB
Cam Newton is the Panthers' QB of the future, sink or swim. While he certainly has a lot of risk attached to him, there's no doubt that he is one of the most tantalizing prospects of the last decade. My bet is he beats Jimmy Clausen out in training camp for the starting job.
2. Buffalo Bills: Von Miller, OLB
This pick was a bit of a surprise. Miller projected more as a 3-4 rush OLB, so how John Fox uses him in his base 4-3 will be interesting.
However, there's no doubt that Von Miller is an elite pass rusher and will be an immediate upgrade for the Broncos. A day one starter, for sure.
3. Buffalo Bills: Marcel Dareus, DT
Buffalo Bills GM Buddy Nix has to be ecstatic that one of the top two prospects in the entire draft was available at the third pick.
Dareus is an offensive lineman's worst nightmare on the interior, a big, athletic, relentless defensive tackle who will anchor the Bills' 3-4 defense
He should be the Bills opening day NT.
4. Cincinnati Bengals: A.J. Green, WR
A.J. Green is the best wide receiver prospect since Calvin Johnson came out of Georgia Tech a few years ago and will be the Bengals' number one wide out from day one.
Chad Ochocinco won't be back in Cincy this season, nor will Carson Palmer. The Bengals made the right choice with Green, now they just need to find someone to get him the ball.
5. Arizona Cardinals: Patrick Peterson, CB
Patrick Peterson was the best overall prospect this year according to most and will open the season opposite Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie as one of the Cardinals corners.
He's big and physical and has top-end speed to run with any wide receiver in the league. He also offers value in the return game, though it's probably unlikely the Cardinals will use him there during his rookie season.
6. Atlanta Falcons (From Cleveland Browns): Julio Jones, WR
The Atlanta Falcons paid a king's ransom to trade all the way up from the 27th pick, but at the end of the day, they got their man.
Julio Jones is a Roddy White clone (though even a little bigger) who will be an exceptional target for Matt Ryan. The Falcons offense is now completely stacked.
7. San Francisco 49ers: Aldon Smith, OLB
There was some very questionable picks on day one and this pick might top the list.
I don't care if the Niners think Smith is a good player. He may turn into a very fine pro. But it's all about value. Smith could've been had 10 picks after the Niners were on the clock, maybe even later.
He's a young kid who scouts have expressed concern about his speed. He'll most likely be used in special situations his rookie season.
8. Tennessee Titans: Jake Locker, QB
Though it was probably a reach, I like this pick.
Jake Locker represents everything Vince Young isn't: a hard-worker, dedicated to his craft and is as tough as nails.
With Rusty Smith the only other QB under contract who'll be back next season, the job is Locker's to lose.
9. Dallas Cowboys: Tyron Smith, OT
There had been speculation for nearly a month that the Cowboys would take Smith, but I was sure they'd want to take a more polished OT who they could insert in their opening day lineup.
That being said, Smith has the highest upside of any tackle in the class and will probably start the season across from Doug Free.
10. Jacksonville Jaguars (From Washington Redskins): Blaine Gabbert, QB
The Jags made a semi-surprising move trading up with the Washington Redskins and nabbing Blaine Gabbert.
David Garrard has been solid, if unspectacular, during his time with the Jags, but was certainly not the longterm answer.
It's a good situation for Gabbert. He'll have a chance to sit behind a veteran for a few years and gets to hand the ball off to MJD.
11. Houston Texans: J.J. Watt, DE
The Houston Texans didn't make a flashy pick (per usual), but added another pass rusher to their offensive line opposite Mario Williams.
Texans fans can't be too displeased, even though Prince Amukamara and Jimmy Smith were both still on the board.
The Texans' defense could use help pretty much everywhere and Watt should be an immediate help.
12. Minnesota Vikings: Christian Ponder, QB
Christian Ponder's stock was on the rise ever since the Senior Bowl after he had a good week of practice and won the MVP honors.
He doesn't have a cannon for an arm, but is incredibly accurate.
Best case scenario for both Ponder and the Vikings would be for the team to bring in a veteran (McNabb) who could be a placeholder for a couple years before passing the reigns off to the young QB.
13. Detroit Lions: Nick Fairley, DT
This was probably the steal of the draft.
Fairley fell further than many expected and the Lions reaped the benefits. Right away, the team has one the best DT combos in the league, two guys who will be Pro Bowlers for years to come.
The Lions are on the brink of turning into a legitimate playoff contender.
14. St. Louis Rams: Robert Quinn, DE
Robert Quinn was another guy I was surprised to see fall this far, despite the fact he missed a year of football.
He's an incredibly good athlete for his size and should form a great duo with Chris Long.
Quinn is another mid-round steal who will be penciled in as a day one starter from the opening of training camp.
15. Miami Dolphins: Mike Pouncey, OG
It's safe to say the stellar play of Mike's brother Maurkice increased his draft stock exponentially.
Mike was projected as a third rounder if he had come out last year, but after Maurkice's impressive rookie season, the Dolphins couldn't help themselves.
Pouncey should be a very solid pro, however, and will be a starter from day one. Chad Henne is slowly running out of excuses...
16. Washington Redskins (From Jags): Ryan Kerrigan, DE
The Redskins added a high effort pass rusher who should come and replace Andre Carter's rush presence right away.
With Brian Orakpo already a proven commodity, the Redskins are slowly cobbling together a re-tooled, explosive young defense.
Kerrigan should compete for a starting job in camp.
17. New England Patriots: Nate Solder, OT
I thought this was a bit of a reach for the Patriots, but who am I to second-guess Bill Belichick?
Solder is huge (6'8'') and has problems keeping his leverage, but the former tight end has the athleticism to develop into an elite left tackle.
Where better to do that than in New England?
18. San Diego Chargers: Corey Liuget, DT
Liuget was a late riser for many scouts after a very productive career at Illinois.
Though he doesn't have ideal size to play the nose in a 3-4 defense, he has the versatility to line up in a number of different roles in Mike Manusky's defense.
He should be the replacement for Jacques Cesaire.
19. New York Giants: Prince Amukamara, CB
Prince had a bit of an abbreviated draft day free-fall, landing with the Giants at pick 19.
Though the Giants already have a pretty well stocked defensive backfield, Amukamara should offer them solid depth and the chance to contribute in nickel situations right away.
Definitely an example of a team taking the best player available.
20. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Adrian Clayborn, DE
Clayborn had a relatively disappointing senior season for the Iowa Hawkeyes, but the former All-American should team up with Gerald McCoy to give the Bucs one of the NFL's best young pass rushes.
He's the kind of player who has enough experience and showed enough productivity in college to contribute as a starter right away.
21. Cleveland Browns (from K.C. Chiefs): Phil Taylor, NT
The Cleveland Browns moved back up into the first round and grabbed Phil Taylor, one of the true 3-4 anchors in this draft class.
At 340 lbs (at his playing weight), Taylor has size and strength to occupy double teams and let the Browns LBs run to the ball. Great pick by Mike Holmgren.
22. Indianapolis Colts: Anthony Castonzo, OT
Outstanding value for the Colts getting Castonzo with the 22nd pick.
I thought the BC product should've been the second OT off the board, maybe even the first. He's definitely the most NFL ready and will be an immediate upgrade at whichever tackle position the Colts decide to use him at.
23. Philadelphia Eagles: Danny Watkins, OG
The oldest prospect in this year's draft class, Danny Watkins was a bit of a surprise going to the Eagles at pick 23.
With Colorado CB Jimmy Smith still on the board, I thought Andy Reid would be inclined to add a playmaker to his secondary.
Instead, the team decided to bolster the interior of their offensive line and draft an NFL ready guard.
24. New Orleans Saints: Cameron Jordan, DE
The Saints got great value drafting Jordan with the 24th pick.
The defensive end from Cal had an outstanding Senior Bowl week, proving he was one of the top seniors in the entire class.
He'll be an fantastic edition to the Saints defense and will contribute right away.
25. Seattle Seahawks: James Carpenter, OT
My guess is that the Seahawks liked Carpenter in the second round, tried to trade down and couldn't, and decided to draft the 'Bama OT with the 25th pick anyway.
With Gabe Carimi still on the board, this was a surprise, and I'm not sure the Seahawks can totally justify it.
Still, adding OTs in back-to-back first rounds gives whoever the Seahawks signal caller is a fighting chance.
26. Kansas City Chiefs: Jonathan Baldwin, WR
Although he is plenty though, he has some serious character concerns and work ethic issues.
Baldwin is an exception athlete who will shine opposite Dwayne Bowe.
The Chiefs offense has loaded up on playmakers over the last several years, and if Matt Cassel can continue to be steady, the team should find themselves back in the playoffs.
27. Baltimore Ravens: Jimmy Smith, CB
The Ravens were slated to pick 26th, but while trying to trade out of the first round, inadvertently ran out of time to make their selection and were passed.
They still got the player they were targeting, Colorado CB Jimmy Smith.
Smith is probably the second best cover guy in the class and will start immediately for the Ravens aging secondary.
28. New Orleans Saints (From N.E. Patriots): Mark Ingram, RB
The Saints jumped back into the first round and grabbed former Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram.
I don't entirely understand the selection, as the Saints already have Chris Ivory and Pierre Thomas under contract. Giving up a 2012 first round pick didn't make a ton of sense.
Still, Ingram will get carries in his rookie season and could develop into something special.
29. Chicago Bears: Gabe Carimi, OT
The Bears wanted to improve their offensive line and they did that by nabbing Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin.
The 2010 Outland Award winner is a physical guy with a high floor who can come in and earn reps right away. Given the state of the Bears offensive line, he should start from week one.
30. New York Jets: Muhammad Wilkerson, DT
The Jets wanted to add a versatile defensive lineman and got one in Temple's Muhammad Wilkerson.
Though a little unheralded, Wilkerson has the size and strength that Rex Ryan loves in his d-lineman. Given the the loss of some key vets in the front seven, Wilkerson should rotate in early.
31. Pittsburgh Steelers: Cam Heyward, DE
The son of Craig "Ironhead" Heyward was a consistent producer for the Buckeyes' defense and should do more of the same in the NFL.
Many thought the Steelers would look to improve their offensive line, and with Derek Sherrod still on the board, I was a little surprised by the pick.
But the Steelers d-line isn't getting any younger and Heyward is an exceptional talent.
32. Green Bay Packers: Derek Sherrod, OT
As is the case with most Super Bowl winners, the Green Bay Packers didn't have a ton of holes to fill.
I thought they might look at Mikel Leshoure, running back from Illinois, but Ted Thompson decided instead to give their offensive line more versatility.
You can never have enough quality o-linemen, and Sherrod should couple with Bryan Bulaga nicely.